Nottingham will host its first ever Caves Festival from 17–30 October, shining a light onto the hidden caves that lie beneath the city.

A Caves Festival hub marquee will be in Old Market Square from Monday 17 to Sunday 23 October, hosting free events and activities – open daily 10.30am – 6pm.

Visitors will be able to discover the history of Nottingham’s awe inspiring caves with free activities including:

  • Discover the fun side of archaeology with Trent and Peak archaeology. Grab a trowel and get digging – who knows what you might find?
  • Book onto an amazing virtual reality exploration (using a real virtual reality headset) of two caves, using innovative technology developed by Nottingham based Hot Knife. Visitors can wander around the caves, learn about their history and even go into passageways that aren’t accessible in real life
  • Enjoy a talk with Nottingham’s official archaeologist, Scott Lomax, and learn about Nottingham’s network of caves
  • Go on a guided walking tour of the city using the Nottingham Caves app, and learn how to see the caves beneath your feet
  • Experience ‘artificial caving’ in a cave designed and built by Hangfast – no need to go underground! See what it’s like to explore and navigate a tight space in limestone tunnels similar to those found in the Yorkshire Dales.

The Caves Festival coincides with October half-term, giving local families and visitors to the city a fantastic free day out, and a great way to discover more about Nottingham’s unique caves.  The Caves Festival hub is brought to the city by Nottingham City Council, with fringe events and attractions from partners including the Malt Cross, Nottingham Castle, the Galleries of Justice and the City of Caves (see our website).

Nottingham’s extraordinary cave system consists of at least 700, and possibly up to 1000 man-made sandstone caves. The soft, sandstone rock that Nottingham stands on is perfect for cave building, meaning the city’s industrious residents began digging into it long ago, finding all kinds of imaginative uses for their manmade excavations – from cave dwellings to underground bowling alleys and jail cells.

Nottingham Museums have been working with Hot Knife Digital Media to develop a virtual reality experience for Nottingham’s caves, starting with Mortimer’s Hole and King David’s Dungeon at Nottingham Castle – so visitors who are unable to descend the steep steps into the caves for a tour will still be able to experience the caves.

Andrew Whitney, Director of Hot Knife Digital Media, said: “”We’ve taken very accurate LiDAR data to digitally reproduce the caves in a gaming environment, allowing people to explore them in virtual reality.”

“We’re excited to bring the caves into the 21st century using the latest gaming and virtual reality technology, increasing the accessibility of these sites to everyone.”

Councillor Dave Trimble, Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Culture at Nottingham City Council, said: “Nottingham’s intriguing caves are a fantastic draw for visitors, and there are also plenty of local people who don’t know about the hidden world beneath their feet.

“We hope that the first Caves Festival will change that, and give the city a popular dedicated event every year to celebrate our caves.”

Brendan Moffett, Chief Executive, Marketing Nottingham & Nottinghamshire, said:

“Nottingham’s caves provide visitors to the city with a unique experience and they continue to be a popular tourist attraction.  It is exciting to incorporate, what we believe to be, the UK’s first-ever Caves Festival as part of this year’s October Festival.

We have been working hard to raise the profile and promote the cave experiences to visitors and have helped to develop a guided walking tour which explores caves.  The Caves Festival can only help to promote the many great cave experiences on offer in the city and we are sure it will be extremely popular.”